As the longest-serving performer on Saturday Night Live, Kenan Thompson has starred in all kinds of roles: host of Black Jeopardy, OJ Simpson and Whoopi Goldberg, to name a few. So it’s surprising that he never played a veterinarian until he was cast in the upcoming movie “Clifford the Big Red Dog”.
He even played a dog. One of the first roles in his career was Toto in a church production of “The Wiz”.
“They did a play and cast all the roles and then they saw me sitting there,” he told TODAY. “I thought, ‘What about the dog? Does anyone play the dog? ‘ You let me do it. “
Now Thompson plays a veterinarian from Banfield in “Clifford the Big Red Dog” who is tasked with treating the weirdly oversized dog.
Working with a CGI character was challenging – eye lines and hand placement became critical – but not preparing for the role itself. He has good relationships with veterinarians who have looked after his own pets over the years, including his late Viennese dog Nathan (yes, like the hot dogs).
“He was a good guy. … That was one thing I learned about keeping a pet, that you need a good vet because you never know when he’ll need an antibiotic or something, “he quipped a toy, and it should just work.”
Now Thompson is using his veterinary experience to encourage high school students to pursue real life veterinary careers. On September 2, he made a surprise appearance at the Whittier Boys & Girls Club in California to discuss opportunities for high school students from underrepresented communities in the veterinary field.
Banfield Pet Hospital, which has over 1,000 locations in the U.S., works with Boys & Girls Clubs of America to reach out to students interested in pursuing a veterinary career, as well as those who may not have considered it. Thompson spoke about the organization’s NextVet program, a new paid internship for high school students that aims to strengthen and diversify the talent pipeline.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 90% of US veterinarians currently identify as white.
“My only concern is to get the message across to anyone who didn’t know there were many opportunities in the veterinary field for people of color,” said Thompson. “This could be an area that could maintain a very comfortable lifestyle if they went through all of the steps it takes to do so. … If you tick these boxes as an animal lover, this can be a good career for you. “
Thompson, who recently felt like a “candy store kid” at the 2021 Emmy Awards after being nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for “Kenan” and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for “Saturday Night Live” – who won the award for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series – noted that success doesn’t come overnight. He wants young people to know what opportunities there are in veterinary medicine as they work towards their goals.
“The market offers a lot of space for diversity and job offers,” he said.